A Maharaja’s vision and romance

Dear Aditya, Shashwat and Anushka

Let me tell you the story of the place where your parents grew up, studied, met and fell in love. It is a city where you owe your origins to, any guesses for it? Yes, it is Baroda as the British called it and Vadodara as it is now known. And, this is where I met them. That melting pot is home to the famous Maharaja Sayaji Rao University, popular as MSU. That was where we studied different disciplines, subjects, courses, had various opinions and perspectives but were bonded for life, in happiness and pain 🙂

MSU is located at the heart of Baroda, has been since a very long time, in an area called Fatehgunj. It was named after Fateh Singh Gaekwad, the grandson of the visionary Sayajirao. The initial foundation and plan for the massive university structure was laid by Sayajirao Gaekwad III, the entire vast building works was completed after his life.

Map of Baroda royal state just after Independence. Copyright: Wikipedia Commons
Map of Baroda royal state just after Independence.
Copyright: Wikipedia Commons

Sayajirao started as a young boy far away from the glitter and glamour of the royalty of the Maratha state of the Gaekwads in Baroda. The Queen Jamnabai adopted him after the death of the King Sir Khanderao Gaekwad in1870. Since Khanderao was a very benevolent king he was much admired and respected by his subjects, but his sons turned out to be irresponsible and blew away so much of the state’s money that the Queen fretted about the future of the state. That is when the Queen, urged on by the British Resident present in the state, decided to select an heir to the throne. There are many stories upon the actual selection process but the young boy Gopalrao from Kavlana, around 600 kms from Baroda city, was selected to be the new heir to the throne due to his daring spirit. He was renamed Sayajirao. Both, the adoption of a child who did not have the royal blue blood in him and his renaming were common practices back then. These might seem unusual to you now but back in the 19th century the safety and security of the state was utmost, lineage wasn’t always the issue.

As a young ruler with the Queen Jamnabai, his adoptive mother and sister Tara Copyright: Wikipedia Commons
As a young ruler with the Queen Jamnabai, his adoptive mother and sister Tara
Copyright: Wikipedia Commons

Sayajirao was born in March 1863, became the Maharaja of Baroda state in 1875 and ruled till his death in February 1939 at the age of 76 years, a mature age in the 20th century.

Maharaja of Gwalior near his fort, painted by Lord Edwin Weeks.  Copyright: Wikipedia Commons
Maharaja of Gwalior near his fort, painted by Lord Edwin Weeks.
Copyright: Wikipedia Commons

You might already have read how the 5 major Maratha clans had their states in different parts of Western India, remember them? Let me refresh your minds; these were: Bhonsles of Nagpur, Holkars of Indore, Scindias of Gwalior, Puars of Dhar & Dewas, and our own Gaekwads of Baroda. The Marathas controlled a large territory of India from 1674 to 1818, till the British got control after repeated wars. All these places just named still boast of some of the most prominent musical gharanas or Indian Classical music traditional houses, along with magnificent architectural monuments. You would have seen the huge Gwalior fort, one of the largest Indian forts?

But let’s return to our chief protagonist, Sayajirao. He was only 12 years old when he was named the ruler of the large Baroda state but of course, he was too young to rule independently so a council ruled in his name. He became a full-fledged ruler only in 1881 after he had received intensive training in administrative matters of the state, education befitting a future leader of the people.

Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III painted by one of his favourite painters, Raja Ravi Varma.  Copyright: Wikipedia Commons
Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III painted by one of his favourite painters, Raja Ravi Varma.
Copyright: Wikipedia Commons

He is credited with making Baroda into one of the most educated, professionally successful and wealthiest state of India before Independence. He was so important and powerful that the British rulers of India then tried not to meddle with him.

Am attaching a video I found on the internet related to Baroda state, you might want to look at the link below:

Video on old Baroda

Hope you have found something interesting to wait for the remaining story in the next post 🙂 see you soon.

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